Last month I wrote about what qualities to look for in a tent for cycle touring; see here. In this following article I look at what steps you can take to lighten the weight of your tent pack and improve the performance of your bargain tent.
I paid less than £100 for my ‘Vango Banshee 200’, it’s great value. The design, dimensions and build quality are perfect for touring. It weighs in at a respectable 2200g which isn’t ultra lightweight but with a bit of thought, time and a few tweaks the ‘Banshee’ can be on par with tents three times its cost.
Pitch and stand back
The first job is to identify where weight savings can be made. Empty the content of your tent pack on the floor in front of you and grab your kitchen scales. The contents of my ‘Banshee’s’ pack consists of the fly sheet, inner tent, peg and pole bags. Empty the peg and pole bags and put them with the pack bag. Now weigh each component and make a note, mine looks like this –
Vango Banshee 200
- pegs (16) 246grams
- Inner & fly sheet 1687 grams
- poles 300grams
- bags 90 grams
Total weight = 2323 grams
At this stage, I’ve already decided to do away with the three bags. I’ll be keeping everything in a dry-bag suitable for the back of the bike and will use ties or elastic bands to keep the pegs and poles together. I’ll also swap the cheap and nasty pack pegs that weigh nearly 16 grams each for some lightweight titanium ones that weigh around 5 grams each.
Next step is to pitch the tent, sit back with pen and paper and make notes of what isn’t necessary and what can easily and cost effectively be swapped for a lighter equivalent. I’ve seen ultra light backpacking tents that have 15 grams worth of manufacturers labels attached to them, these can usually be unpicked. Inner tent pockets add weight but I’d recommend not cutting them away until you have camped in your tent for some time and you’re absolutely convinced they’re surplus to your requirements.
By swapping to dyneema you can half the weight of your current guy-line system. Guy-lines (especially on budget tents) are usually constructed from cheaper, heavier line and components and are often over complicated. For instance, my ‘Banshee’ came with thick nylon paracord which is not only heavy but is heavier still when it’s wet. It’s also far too thick so it catches the wind and it stretches something terrible too. To make things worse there’s lots of it on the ‘Banshee’ and every line incorporates a plastic sliding line lock.
Swapping your nylon guy lines for braided dyneema
Work your way around the tent, look at each original line set up before cutting or un-picking them, photographs are also a good idea to refer back to. Consider if there’s a better way to arrange the new guy-line, the manufacturers set-up isn’t always optimal. Learn the Tautline Hitch, it’s a sliding knot that can move either way, see here. It’s very useful and simple to tie, I remember it by forming a loop and doing two turns within the loop and one turn outside the loop, tuck and tighten.
The ‘Vango Banshee has five guy-lines, one either side from the larger pole loop, two from the foot end and one at the head end.
Each line I have configured differently to ‘Vango’s’ set up, take a look at the foot end guy-lines on my ‘Banshee’. Each guy comes as a double line set up with a plastic slider, I’ve replaced these with a single length of lightweight 2mm braided dyneema and have used sliding knots rather than a plastic line lock. This arrangement provides more adjustment, uses less line, requires no additional components and is half the weight of the manufacturers.
The side lines consist of a vertical running section with a lateral pegging line connected by a plastic ring. The pegging line is again doubled using a plastic line lock, I’ve replaced it with the ‘Tautline Hitch’ (sliding knot) but I have used the plastic ring to connect the two lines.
The head end guy is a single line and again I have knotted it at either end with the adjustable ‘Tautline hitch’ eliminating any need for the original plastic slider lock.
The guy-lines as standard on the ‘Vango Banshee’ are generous, I shortened the length of each when I replaced them with the dyneema. As a like for like comparison though – I removed approximately 8.7m of original guy-line which weighs in at 54g. The same length in the dyneema guy-line is exactly half the weight at 27g.
Another like for like comparison was a wet test. I soaked a 1.3m length of the original paracord guy-line (weighing 8g dry), when wet it weighed 12g, the same length of dyneema weighed 4g dry and when wet there was no difference. This is where dyneema comes in to it’s own.
2mm Dyneema is available in 5, 10 and 15 mtr coils to purchase here
Swapping your standard pegs for a titanium set is the most straight forward weight saving you can make. The Vango’s standard peg set contains sixteen pegs weighing 15g each. I have swapped these for a titanium peg that weighs 5.4g each. Do I need to carry sixteen pegs? It’s good to keep your options open and the more pegs you have the more options available but I tend to use 8 pegs to pitch and carry two in reserve as spares. One peg will often serve two purposes, in several places I use the same peg to secure a pegging strap and guy-line combined or I’ll put two guy-lines on a single peg.
Remember to carry the right pegs for the ground your camping on, I find a standard 150mm (6″) titanium peg a great all rounder but it’s also good to have some hard ground pegs in reserve. A lot of walkers and lightweight enthusiasts swear by the 127mm 2g pegs as the ultimate weight saving peg.
For a selection of titanium pegs, please see here
From my Vango Banshee I managed the following weight savings –
- Swapped the original peg set (246g) for 10 x 5.4g titanium 150mm pegs (54g) – saving 192g
- Removed the peg and pole bags – saving 90g
- Swapped the original guy-lines (104g wet ) for Dyneema (30g wet) – Saving 74g
The three simple steps above give a total saving of 356g, bringing the tent pack down to below 2kg which is on par with tents like MSR’s Hubba Hubba (£450), Robens Buzzard (£250) and the Terra Nova Polar Lite (£315). Not bad for a £100 tent!
Happy Lightweight Camping!